Women and American Literature

Topics: 19th century, Women's suffrage, Feminism Pages: 5 (1818 words) Published: May 21, 2013
Womens Suffrage and the Yellow Wallpaper
Society in the nineteenth century was different from what we know it as today. Women were unable to think, speak or care for themselves as they followed the instructions of their husbands to play the role of wife and mother. The Yellow Wallpaper written by Chrlotte P. Gilman tells a story of a middle aged women perscribed the "rest-cure" by her husband John, the phsyican after giving birth to their first child. The women is put to bed as part of her treatment to a mental illness, known as a nervous depression entitiled melancholia. As their home is being renovated, John rents a large home which looks to have been vacaant for some time. The woman is ordered to complete her treatmeant in an old nursery that is patterned with hideous yellow wallpaper she soon becomes obsessed with. Rather than her becoming well, she finds her mental stage deteriorating due to the privation of freedom and stimulus. This short story, The Yellow Wallpaper takes place during a time where women were oppressed and treated as second rate people in society. Gilman symbolizes the many struggles women faced during this time such as their lack of identity, freedom and the struggle for equality as it was not until the 1920's when women were considered equal. In addition, Gilmans use of the yellow wallpaper strongly symbolizes the way women were depicted as mentally weak human beings of this time. Her style of writing signifies women's want for freedome and feelings of great despair. Gilman's story of her struggles as a women of the early 19th century encouraged the rights of women, and became a step towards ending womenans suffrage in the 20th century.

The struggle for self-identity is well symbolized through Gilmans short story, The Yellow Wallpaper. In a few short pages, she brilliantly takes her readers on a journey of a woman (the narrator) who is controlled by her husband so much to the point she has been imprisoned in a solitary room by his command. During Gilmans time, it was recognized that many women experienced a psychiatric illness or nervous depression following childbirth, and what we many know today as post-partum depression. After giving birth to their first child, the narrator is ordered to complete the duration of her treatment in a run-down colonial mansion her Husband has rented. However, she was umable to be with her newborn son by saying, "I cannot be with him, it makes me so nervous" (Gilman 488). She explained the gratefulness of Mary, a women who took care of her child, but expressed the nervous feelings it gave her to be withour her child. During her treatment, her husband John demands she get well fast or else she will be sent to Dr. Silas Weir Mitchell, a physican who specializes in nerve disorders (Gilman 489). While on the "rest-cure" she is restricted of all physical activities including writing. This was difficult for her as she referred to writing as a relief to her mind (GIlman 486). Throughout her short story, she relives her fear of being caught writing in her journal and not only by John, but also Johns sister. Here Gilman expresses her frantic behavior when putting away her journal, "There comes John, and I must put this away - he hates to have me write a word" (Gilman 487). Another example Gilman uses to show her sturggle for identity is illustrated by not revealing the narrators name, but rather referered to her as "Johns wife". By doing this, GIlman informs the readers that women were unable to identify themselves for who there were, but rather a property of a male figure such as a husband, father, or older brother. Johns wife tries to explain concerns of her illness stating it is within her, and that working outdoors would be the best cure for her. But this only allowed John to laugh at her, and inform her that nothing is wrong (Gilman 486). It is clear the narrator is unable to make decisions regarding her illness or treatment as if it was not her own body.

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